I HAVE NO IDEA....
…….where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end." Thomas Merton had an enviable faith in God, but he didn't pretend to be a Christian know-it-all, which is probably why he was such a gifted spiritual director, walking alongside other seekers on the way, sharing the quest with them, asking the questions to which they too wanted answers. Nor was he afraid to step outside of his chosen Catholic faith. Faith and prayer were a work-in-progress for Thomas Merton too.
THOMAS MERTON was born on 31st January 1915 in Prades, France, to artists Ruth and Owen Merton. His early years were spent in the south of France; later, he went to private school in England and then to Cambridge. Both of his parents died by the time Merton was a teenager, and he eventually moved to his grandparents' home in the United States to finish his education at Columbia University in New York City. While a student there, he completed a thesis on William Blake, who was to remain a lifelong influence on Merton's thought and writings. But Merton's active social and political conscience was also informed by his conversion to Christianity and Catholicism in his early twenties.
Merton suffered many "ups and downs" in his own life. His early and teenage years were not easy, and he saw that others' lives were similarly weighed down by
deep hurts, anger, resentment, lost loves, broken relationships...….Life for him
was never predictable: this realisation must have prompted his famous prayer:-
"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though
I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone."
He worked for a time at Friendship House under the mentorship of Catherine Doherty and then began to sense a vocation to the priesthood. In December 1941, he resigned his teaching post at Bonaventure College, Olean, NY, and journeyed to the Abbey of Gethsemani, near Louisville, Kentucky. There, Merton undertook a lifelong spiritual journey as a scholar, a man of prayer, and formation as a Cistercian monk.
His influence as a religious thinker
and social critic is places him alongside the likes of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King.
His exploration of Eastern religions put him in the forefront of global ecumenical understanding.
Tragically, Merton died suddenly, electrocuted by a malfunctioning fan, while he was attending his first international monastic conference near Bangkok, Thailand,
on December 10th 1968.
Give me the strength that waits upon You in silence and peace. Give me humility in which alone is rest,
and possess my whole heart and soul
with the simplicity of love.
Occupy my whole life with the one thought and the one desire of love,
that I may love not for the sake of merit, not for the sake of perfection,
not for the sake of virtue,
not for the sake of sanctity,
but for You alone.
For there is only one thing
that can satisfy love and reward it.